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A Good Friend Is Hard to Find


Today brought more discouraging news from Egypt, where a criminal court convicted 43 local and foreign NGO employees of spreading unrest in the country. The groups, which include the congressionally funded International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute, have had their assets seized by the Egyptian government. The vast majority of foreign aid workers, including 15 American defendants, was sentenced in absentia after they left the country.

The trials, which come on the heels of newly enacted legislation that severely restricts the ability of NGOs to operate, mark yet another blow to Egyptian civil society.

Meanwhile, Erdogan’s AK Party government in Turkey, which is frequently held up as a model for moderate Islamist governance, isn’t looking so great these days. Massive and bloody protests have been rocking the country for nearly a week. While the protesters don’t necessarily represent a broad cross-section of Turkish society, Erdogan’s heavy-handed and authoritarian response is leading many in the West to rethink just how democratic Turkey really is. Writing in Foreign Policy, Steven Cook and Michael Koplow write:

Turkey’s anti-democratic turn has all taken place without much notice from the outside world. It was not just coercive measures — arrests, investigations, tax fines, and imprisonments — that Washington willfully overlooked in favor of a sunnier narrative about the “Turkish miracle.” Perhaps it is not as clear, but over the last decade the AKP has built an informal, powerful, coalition of party-affiliated businessmen and media outlets whose livelihoods depend on the political order that Erdogan is constructing. Those who resist do so at their own risk.

Despite conciliatory remarks by Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul, Erdogan’s crackdown continued today as the government arrested 25 Twitter users for spreading “false information.” A day after the U.S. State Department suggested tourists stay away from Egypt’s pyramids, it is now warning Americans to avoid Turkey as well.

While we hold out hope Egypt and Turkey, the current travails of both countries go to show just how hard it is to find good friends in the region. President Obama’s two best moderate Islamist friends—Morsi and Erdogan—continue to make headlines for all the wrong reasons.

[Prisoner image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • USNK2

    The Greek Tourism industry is already cheering. Two-fer!

  • oogabooga

    “Meanwhile, Erdogan’s AK Party government in Turkey, which is frequently held up as a model for moderate Islamist governance, isn’t looking so great these days.”

    With all due respect, I feel like this has been pretty obvious for the past several years…

  • rheddles

    Good friends? In Dar es Salaam? You’ve got to be kidding! These are people we need to live with but they will never be our friends. We represent too much of a threat to their culture just by being who we are.

  • Fred

    “President Obama’s two best moderate Islamist friends”

    What’s a moderate Islamist, one who doesn’t eat his hostages?

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